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9.30 pm

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) asked whether a local education authority could refer a matter to the adjudicator. That is an important issue. The local education authority will be an admissions authority, because it will have responsibility for community schools. It will have the power to refer matters to the adjudicator.

We want to go further than that. There may be situations in which a local education authority that contains partially selective schools is not the only interested body. Neighbouring authorities may also have a legitimate interest because of the impact that partial selection has on children in their area. It would be appropriate to give power to a neighbouring authority to refer a matter to the adjudicator in such circumstances. When my right hon. Friend brings regulations forward, he will be mindful of the problems of neighbouring authorities, such as Southwark and Wandsworth or Greenwich and Bromley. Those neighbouring authorities have a legitimate interest in the effects of partial selection.

To respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting, adjudicators will have to follow the guidelines laid down by the Secretary of State. If they fail to do so, their decisions can be subject to judicial review if anyone disagrees with them.

Mr. St. Aubyn: Will the Minister explain how the adjudicator will cope with the potential disappointment and bitterness of a child from a less well-off background who, under the proposed new non-selective system, finds that the distance from his home to the school that his academic ability demands is too great, denying him the education that his ability requires?

Mr. Byers: I shall try to make sense of what the hon. Gentleman has said because I have a generous spirit--that

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is part of my nature. I disagreed with many of the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), but I agreed with his comments about the basis of selection. The school selects; the parent does not choose. That is the nature of selection. By promising no extension of partial selection and producing a code of practice under clause 76, we shall ensure that the continuing of partial selection does not cause difficulty for local children. That has been a consistent Labour policy.

Mr. Dafis: Did I hear the Minister aright? I thought I heard him say that there would be no extension of partial selection. In that case, what is clause 94 about?

Mr. Byers: I shall move on shortly to talk briefly about the idea of 10 per cent. specialism by aptitude, but first I must conclude my comments on what has been said about partial selection. I know that it is creating difficulties in areas such as Bromley--

Mr. Brady: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Byers: No, I want to make my point first.

Bromley, Hertfordshire and Wandsworth are probably the three local education authorities most adversely affected by partial selection. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State brings the code of practice before the House, hon. Members will see how we intend to deal with the problem.

We had a full debate in Committee on the distinction between aptitude and ability, and exchanged definitions from the dictionary and elsewhere. I had not had Wordsworth quoted to me on the subject before, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Dafis) for drawing the reference to our attention.

A clear distinction exists between aptitude and ability. The right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell) said that that was a nonsensical distinction, so it may be worth drawing to his attention what the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) said on 20 May 1996 when, as Secretary of State for Education and Employment, she launched some research:

The right hon. Lady was clearly of the view that there was a distinction between ability and aptitude. The findings of that research project were interesting; that ability is an all-embracing factor that suggests whether a candidate will be able successfully to undertake a course of study, whereas aptitude is narrower, determining whether someone can take advantage of a particular course of study. A clear distinction was made, and the findings were made available by the former Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

The point of our proposals on selection according to aptitude is that, although we believe in the comprehensive principle, it has to be modernised--and that is what the proposals in the Bill will do. Modernising the comprehensive principle is part of the Government's commitment. We shall embrace concepts such as setting, where that is appropriate in the interests of individual

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pupils; we have no problem with that, and we shall have a range and diversity of provision, but within the comprehensive principle.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Byers: No; I want to make progress.

The amendments are in many respects backward looking; they do not take the debate forward. Our proposals are pragmatic and realistic and put the interests of children first. They are modern and they are based on partnership. In that spirit, I ask the House to reject the amendments, and to support the Bill in its present form.

Mr. Don Foster: The Minister was at his most generous when he told us that he accepted the fact that local education authorities need to be able to object to partial selection in their areas. His generosity went even further when he said that neighbouring authorities could also object, and I am grateful for that.

However, the hon. Gentleman was at his most enigmatic when he told us that much would depend on the code of practice to be announced by the Secretary of State--yet, although speaking from the Dispatch Box, he told us that he himself would not be giving away any details about what would be in that code of practice. I suspect that this is the one occasion when we would have welcomed the full monty from the Minister.

The Minister made an interesting slip of the tongue. He wanted to say that he had a generous "spirit", but he said something that sounded like "spin-it". In his attempts to explain to the House the difference between aptitude and ability, he was spinning around. He will know that the majority of researchers do not accept what he says, including Professor Peter Mortimore, who in today's The Guardian makes it clear that there is no evidence for making a distinction between the two.

The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) made clear his concern about the situation in Wandsworth. The Minister told him that he need have no worries because the Bill will introduce a system in which there will be an adjudicator. If a parent in Wandsworth objects to what is going on, he can appeal to the adjudicator. If the adjudicator decides to, he can get rid of partial selection. I hope that that does not reassure the hon. Gentleman. Even if partial selection by ability goes, there will be a continuation of partial selection by aptitude, and that can grow.

One of the most worrying things I have seen in the House since the general election is the way in which the Labour and Conservative parties have joined in the Lobbies to take away benefits from lone parents. Labour Members ought to be concerned when they hear an offer from the right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell) to stand together, arm in arm, with the Government on selection by aptitude and ability. I hope that that sets bells ringing for many Labour Members.

On Second Reading, the Secretary of State said that the Bill would get rid of partial selection. The Bill does nothing of the sort. Without our amendment, partial selection by ability and aptitude will continue. We are

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fundamentally opposed to that, and I hope that all other right hon. and hon. Members who are opposed to selection by ability or aptitude will join us in the Lobbies.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 44, Noes 284.

Division No. 223
[9.41 pm


Allan, Richard
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Beggs, Roy
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Chidgey, David
Corbyn, Jeremy
Dafis, Cynog
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Fearn, Ronnie
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kirkwood, Archy
Livsey, Richard
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Wallace, James
Webb, Steve
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Willis, Phil

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Paul Keetch and
Mr. Andrew Stunell.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Byers, Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Church, Ms Judith
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Norman A
Golding, Mrs Llin
Grant, Bernie
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Kemp, Fraser
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Lock, David
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McLeish, Henry
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Rogers, Allan
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stevenson, George
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. John McFall and
Jane Kennedy.

Question accordingly negatived.

24 Mar 1998 : Column 274

Clause 94

Permitted selection: aptitude for particular subjects

Amendment proposed: No. 90, in page 69, line 28, leave out 'Subject to subsection (2)'.--[Mrs. Browning.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 131, Noes 331.

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